You’ve seen their names in the pages of SBF, and maybe you’ve met some of them at industry events. Now find out why these 15 noteworthy folks are in the school bus business — and what they do when they’re not working. The details shared here include adventures in the Rockies, famous crash test dummies and acting on a murder mystery dinner train.


Neal Abramson

Transportation Director, Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) Unified School


Photo: Neal Abramson has been an improvisational actor on the Fillmore and Western Railway Murder Mystery Dinner Train for more than 11 years.

Born: Omaha, Neb.
Home: Ventura, Calif.
Years in industry: 25
Notable previous jobs: I served as the district director of driver development and safety for Laidlaw Transit Inc., covering Ventura, Orange, part of Los Angeles, and San Diego counties in Southern California.

How did you get your start in the industry?
I worked as a school bus driver for Lincoln (Neb.) Public Schools while I attended the University of Nebraska. I also worked briefly as a school bus driver for R.W. Harmon & Sons for Omaha (Neb.) Public Schools.

Current job duties?
I am the director of transportation at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. We operate 25 routes and provide service to 200 special-needs students and 400 to 500 regular-ed students. Due to the layout of Malibu, we only transport regular-ed students for this half of the district. We provide transportation for special-needs students in the Santa Monica portion.

Top achievements?
My top professional achievement is becoming a California state-certified school bus driver instructor while I was still in my twenties and then building my experience to become a transportation director. 
On the personal side, I have been married to my beautiful wife, Betty, for 12 years. 

Outside interests?
I am an avid cyclist as well as a member and the current president of the Channel Islands Bicycle Club. I also have been an improvisational actor on the Fillmore and Western Railway Murder Mystery Dinner Train ( for more than 11 years. 

What do you like most about being in the industry?
Working for more than 14 years at the same school district has given me the opportunity to see many children literally grow up right before my eyes. We've transported some students for their entire public school education.



Brad Barker
Shop Supervisor, Park City (Utah) School District


Born: Salt Lake City
Home: West Jordan, Utah
Years in industry: 32

How did you get your start in the industry?
I started working on school buses at Davis School District in Farmington, Utah, while in high school during work release from auto shop class in my senior year.

After graduating, attending trade school and a few years in the trucking industry, I returned to full-time work for the same district. After working for Davis for 14 years, I took the position of shop supervisor for Park City (Utah) School District and have been there for the past 18 years.

What do you consider your top achievements?
I have been involved with the state technician training committee, and I help out on the state standards committee. I represented school bus technicians in general on the National Congress on School Transportation subcommittee for school bus specifications this last year, which has been a great learning experience, allowing me to meet many fine individuals of various positions in our industry.
What are some of your interests outside of work?
When I am not at work, I love to spend time with my family, which is growing rapidly.

If I get any spare time, I enjoy being creative by working with my hands and my heart carving caricature figures from wood and making other items for family. I enjoy fly fishing in the quiet mountain lakes and streams of the Rocky Mountains.

If you could travel anywhere ...
I would like to take three months and tour Europe. World history is fascinating.

What do you like most about being in the school bus industry?
Working in the school bus industry has brought joy to my life. One never gets "money rich" working in this business, but I feel I am rich with knowing I have contributed to the welfare of others in trying to keep school buses safe. The friends you make in this industry cannot be found many other places.


Peggy Burns, Esq.
Consultant and Owner, Education Compliance Group Inc.


Born: Bronx, N.Y.
Home: Lafayette, Colo.
Years in industry: 14 years direct involvement, 21 total years
Notable previous job: Teaching English

How did you get your start in the industry?
In 1995, I did a Freedom of Information Act request, seeking cases on student-to-student sexual harassment for a policy I was developing for my district. When I learned that a surprising number of situations took place on the school bus, I contacted my then-director of transportation. He suggested I do a presentation on the subject at the spring Colorado State Pupil Transportation Association meeting. I fell in love with the people I met - and decided to learn everything I could about the subject of legal issues related to pupil transportation.

 Current job duties?
As a consultant, I write Legal Routes; create video training programs for school bus drivers; develop training materials for all levels of personnel in pupil transportation; offer presentations, workshops, and other training opportunities; and, currently, am developing practical resources for a school risk management manual under contract to a national insurance company.

Top achievements?
Professional - my ability to "operationalize" complex legal information so that it will be useful to school transportation professionals at all levels. And, my most recent video, "The Road to Compliance for Special-Needs Drivers."

Personal - that I was able to raise two wonderful sons and have a fulfilling 27-year (to date) marriage, while having an enriching professional career.

Outside interests?
Reading novels and participating in a book club that's been together for many years. I dabble in gardening. I love taking road trips with my husband.

If you could travel anywhere ...
Italy - the sights, the food - everything.

Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I'm quite a "stay at home," sometimes anti-social person.

What do you like most about being in the industry?
The authenticity of the people.



Michael P. Dallessandro
Transportation Supervisor, Lake Shore Central School
District, Angola, N.Y.


Born: Buffalo, N.Y.
Home: Buffalo, N.Y.
Years in industry: 21
Notable previous jobs: I have worked as a mobile DJ and a radio DJ. I also did some auto sales and fleet leasing work after college.

How did you get your start in the industry?
I was hoping to be called for the Buffalo (N.Y.) Fire Department, and I took a job at the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District in Buffalo as a substitute school bus driver to make some cash and kill time. The job with the fire department never came through, but my interest in school transportation and responsibilities at Kenmore-Tonawanda grew and now here I am.

Current job duties?
I oversee overall day-to-day transportation and grounds operations at Lake Shore Central School District.

Top achievements?
We have been able to update and modernize our bus fleet and transportation facility, make strides in improving training and safety, and continue to support professional development.

Outside interests?
There's a special place in my heart for retired funeral cars. I have owned two in my life so far: a 1967 Cadillac/Superior and a 1982 Cadillac/S&S Victoria. Also, my wife and I spend most of our leisure time participating in boating activities.

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
After I retire from the school bus business, I think I would like to try a career in talk radio.

What do you like most about being in the industry?
I feel fortunate that I have been able to get to know the people who work in my office, my fellow transportation directors and the people who build and sell our buses. They are an amazingly dedicated team of professionals who I continue to learn so much from every day.

Tell us about your Website,
I am able to share my 20-plus years of experience in school transportation and volunteer fire department management through the Website. I have developed training programs aimed at safe driving, leadership and management development that are detailed on the site.


Dan Duenwald
Manager, Harlow's School Bus Service Inc., Clark, S.D.


Born: Hoven, S.D.
Home: Clark, S.D.
Years in industry: 24
Notable previous jobs: I helped out on the family dairy farm early in life. While still in high school, I started at a body and repair shop, where I worked for four years.

How did you get your start in the industry?
My wife and I partnered with my family on the family dairy farm but decided it was not enough for all of us to live on. That's when I saw the job opening for a maintenance person/school bus driver. Ten years later, I was offered a management position at Harlow's School Bus Service, along with a teaching and coaching position at the high school.

Current job duties?
I manage the Clark School District bus operation for Harlow's Bus Service and teach the automotive class for Clark High School. In 2001, I incorporated a CDL curriculum into my junior/senior class. I am currently working with 11 juniors to get their Class A CDLs.

What do you consider your top achievements?
Being married for 33 years, raising four children and being lucky enough to have three grandchildren.

I have developed a new, four-hour in-service held throughout the state each year. I train 40-some people to do their own in-services and I have done the rest of the in-services throughout the state for the past nine years. This year to date, I have done almost 60 in-services in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana.  

What are some of your outside interests?
Each year as an automotive instructor I have an opportunity to take a summer class through WyoTech in Laramie, Wyo. The class I really enjoyed was Graphics and Painting Mailboxes. We all had to paint our own mailbox. Since that first one, I have made close to 100 school bus mailboxes for various people.

What do you like most about being in the industry?
I love being around children, plus all the good people I have met in the transportation industry. It's fun when drivers come up and say, 'Aren't you the bus guy? We really enjoyed your in-service this past summer.'



Donald Fowler
President, Fowler Bus Co., Richmond, Mo.
President, NSTA


Born: Sedalia, Mo.
Home: Richmond, Mo.
Years in industry: 34
Notable previous job: Service manager at his father's International Harvester truck and tractor dealership

How did you get your start in the industry?
I worked in my father's International Harvester truck and tractor dealership as service manager for about seven years. In 1975, while operating our dealership, I bid on a contract with a small rural school that operated eight buses, and I won the contract. We sold the dealership in '78, and in '82, I bought the school bus company operating in my hometown. I've been running yellow buses ever since.

Current job duties?
Everything from being a janitor to making the financial decisions to being a sub driver. I do it all!
Top achievements?
I feel that my top achievements would be several years ago being the SCHOOL BUS FLEET Contractor of the Year, and now having the privilege of being elected president of the National School Transportation Association. Also, just being a good Mason, Shriner and Rotarian in our community.

Outside interests?
Muscle cars, and rebuilding my 1932 International school bus and my 1949 KB-1 International pickup.

If you could travel anywhere in the world ...
I would go to Mexico or Hawaii - or anywhere that's warm and has a beach.

Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I have a farm, where I enjoy working with my Angus cattle and fishing in one of my ponds.

What do you like most about being in the industry?
The day-to-day challenges of operating my small fleet of buses. When I tell somebody I've seen it all, something new happens.


Larry Hannon
School Bus Driver/Technician, Centennial School District,
Warminster, Pa.


Born: Abington, Pa.
Home: Hartsville, Pa.
Years in industry: 33
Notable previous jobs: I started working at a gas station when I was 14 years old. After college, I worked full time as an auto body technician and drove a school bus in the morning.

How did you get your start in the industry?
Driving a school bus in the morning fit into my schedule while I attended community college in the afternoon and unloaded tractor trailers at night.

Current job duties?
I drive a school bus for Centennial School District and work at the body shop full time. Sometimes I transport students to athletic or marching band activities in the evening.
Top achievements?
My top achievements would have to be participating in school bus driver competitions. I have won the Montgomery/Bucks counties competition 18 times and the Pennsylvania state competition eight times. I've won the International School Bus Driver Safety Competition in the Conventional class five times and the Small Bus class once.

What is your secret to doing so well?
I never take it for granted. Every year, I practice with the help of my wife and sons. I also continue to study and learn school bus safety and transportation rules and regulations.

Outside interests?
I have been a firefighter for the Hartville Volunteer Fire Department for the past 36 years. I started driving the fire engines at the age of 18.  I have been the engineer for the first responding pumper for the past
25 years.

I also enjoy vegetable gardening as well as restoring antique tractors and muscle cars.

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I still own the first car I ever drove, a Ford Torino GT.

What do you like most about being in the industry?
I enjoy the children I have the privilege of transporting to school every morning. Driving the sports teams is fulfilling, too.  I can often be found in the stands cheering them on. Also, I appreciate the friendship of my coworkers at the Centennial bus garage.



Diana Hollander
Program Officer for Pupil Transportation, Nevada
Department of Education, Las Vegas


Born: St. Louis
Home: Las Vegas
Years in industry: 14
Notable previous jobs: I was the league softball coordinator for Clark County Parks and Recreation in Las Vegas.

How did you get your start in the industry?  
The job fell out of the sky. I was hired as a secretary for the director of the state Department of Education. He went on a medical leave shortly after I started and I told them I would help as much as I could.

The director never returned from medical leave and retired. No one at the department wanted this position, so I offered. I just picked up the ball and never stopped.

Current job duties? 
I oversee the state pupil transportation program, as well as criminal background checks for teacher licensing applicants.

Top achievements?  
My biggest achievement has been raising my daughter along with her father, and being her mom. I am also proud of how much I have learned about school buses. For a girl who could not even change a tire, I have come a long way.  

Outside interests? 
I love my family, friends, cooking, hiking, traveling, football, pool volleyball, swimming and camping.

If you could travel anywhere ... 
I would go to Italy. I would love to learn how to cook authentic Italian food while drinking Italian wine in a villa.

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you? 
I once mud wrestled for charity.

What do you like most about being in the industry? 
The great people! School bus professionals are enthusiastic about what they do and have a dedication like no others. They give their time and knowledge generously and will do anything to help you out.


Peter Lawrence
Director of Transportation, Fairport (N.Y.) Central School District


Born: Rochester, N.Y.
Home: Irondequoit, N.Y.
Years in industry: 21
Notable previous jobs: I worked on a horse farm in Tennessee for six months, tending to more than 100 riding horses, 20 wild mustangs and a dozen buffalo.

How did you get your start in the industry?
Shortly after leaving the United States Marine Corps (USMC), I started as a school bus mechanic/substitute bus driver. After six years, I worked my way into management positions, including group leader, head mechanic, driver trainer/safety coordinator, and, for the last seven years, director of transportation.

Current job duties?
I oversee a department of 144 employees who transport more than 7,400 students. I serve on the Emergency Response Team, Administrative Cabinet and Committee for Special Education as needed.

Top achievements?
One of the things I was most proud of professionally was being selected as the New York Association for Pupil Transportation's 24th Art Schock award winner when I was 39 years of age.

I am blessed to have a wonderful wife who is very supportive and talented. Linda and I have been happily married for more than 18 years.

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am one of the few people who have both a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) and high school diploma. While completing my advanced training in the USMC, I failed my Military Occupational Specialty training in aviation electronics. After a review with the commanding officer, I was assigned to the horse stable. My duties included painting miles of fence and "breaking" wild mustang colts for future riding horses.

I have completed degrees in automotive technology, management and human resources. Currently, I am working on my Certificate of Advanced Study, which will allow me to become an assistant superintendent for business.

What do you like most about being in the industry?
The best part of our industry, hands down, is the people! There is a camaraderie and respect for each other that is not common in other industries.



Murrell Martin
Pupil Transportation Specialist, Utah State Office of Education,
Salt Lake City


Born: Logan, Utah
Home: Bountiful, Utah
Years in industry: 26
Notable previous jobs: I worked on a dairy farm prior to working in the school bus industry. I have also been a real estate developer and owned a professional lawn care business.

How did you get your start in the industry?
I got started in the industry driving a school bus while I was in college, and got involved in the instruction and supervision of school bus drivers.

Current job duties?
I oversee and direct all aspects of public education pupil transportation for the state of Utah. My duties include working with the Utah State School Board, the Utah State Legislature and the Governor's Office, as well as many other agencies and organizations to facilitate the needs of the school bus program in Utah.

Top achievements?
First was presenting a bullying intervention presentation at the 2005 National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) Conference in Austin, Texas. Second is being appointed to the Utah Clean Cities Board of Directors. Third is being asked to be a part of the NAPT Blog Squad. Finally, the honor of being asked to co-chair the 2009 School Transportation News Western State Conference.

Personally, my greatest achievement has to be raising, providing for and teaching my own children to be honest and contribute to positive parts of our neighborhood, state, nation and world. I am also proud to have been able to spend two years using my own resources to fund full-time missionary service to forward the beliefs of my church. I look forward to having a similar opportunity after I retire.

What are some of your outside interests?
My outside interests include spending time with family and friends, fishing, golfing, four-wheeling, metal detecting and of course skiing since I live in Utah with the greatest snow on earth!

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
I played football as a defensive end. I was once able to hit a pulling guard, two running backs and the quarterback with enough force to knock all four of them down for a loss.


Randy Mazie
Director, John Schee Transportation Center, Miami-Dade County Public Schools


Born: New York City
Home: Davie, Fla.
Years in industry: 23
Notable previous jobs: I ran transportation services for the elderly for many years prior to school busing. I have an MBA and Master's in social work and I worked for many years in psychiatric facilities. 

How did you get your start in the industry?
While I was running elderly transportation services, I would pass a particular school bus yard. I would always admire how nice the buses looked all lined up. I'd comment to my wife how I would like to work in a place that looked as nice as that. One day a position opened, I applied, and the rest is history.

Current job duties?
I am a director of a transportation center for a large school bus district in South Florida; and several years ago, my wife, Debbie, and I started our own online school bus merchandise company,

What do you consider your top achievements?
My family, going back to school at the age of 55, and learning Photoshop, Web design, and all the things that go into a successful business. I am also proud to have had articles published in SCHOOL BUS FLEET.

What do you like most about being in the industry?
I like dealing with the human side of transportation: the pressing concerns expressed by parents, drivers, attendants, and school and transportation staff. I enjoy the whole "enchilada." I try to listen with a "third ear" to what people are really saying in hopes of resolving each situation on its own merits.

Tell us a bit about and how it got started.
The seed sprouted when I developed graphics designed to increase school bus ridership for my school board. My employees liked the designs and encouraged me to have them printed on  T-shirts. We have since expanded into posters, greeting cards, notepads and buttons.
We are trying to create within the pupil transportation industry a professional image that depicts what we do with a sense of artistry, humor and a unique appreciation of what all of us contribute to this valuable field.



Barry McCahill
McCahill Communications, Eagle, Idaho


Born: Glen Ridge, N.J.
Home: Eagle, Idaho
Years in industry: About 12
Notable previous jobs: Acting director of NHTSA's Office of Public & Consumer Affairs, Army officer during the Vietnam conflict

How did you get your start in the industry?
Charlie Gauthier (former NASDPTS executive director) is an old friend - we worked at NHTSA together. He and Mike Martin (NAPT executive director) were concerned about sensational media reporting about school bus crashes and wanted help presenting a more balanced picture of pupil transportation. We developed the School Bus Information Council to provide both a quick reaction capability when school buses are in the news and to make sure "the empire strikes back" when media unfairly portrays the school bus industry.

Current job duties?
For the past 10 years, I've been a public relations consultant. Last year, I decided to begin easing into semi-retirement but wanted to keep engaged with the school bus industry because I truly enjoy the people and the interesting work. I advise Mike Martin and the NAPT board on public and media relations, and how to work effectively in the Washington, D.C., regulatory and political environment. I also write a blog on the NAPT Website.

Top achievements?
Professional: Making it a priority to get home to my family in time for dinner every night despite having demanding jobs. At NHTSA, I was part of the team that devised the effective national strategies for increasing seat belt and child safety seat use and discouraging drunk driving. We changed the paradigm in that today most of us use seat belts, and drunk driving, while still occurring, is not socially acceptable. I also helped create and directed the Vince and Larry crash test dummy public service advertising campaign - recognized as one of the most effective in history. Also, I'm proud to be involved in what has been accomplished to position pupil transportation more positively.

Personal: Raising four beautiful daughters, being a grandfather and enjoying life with a wonderful woman.

What are some of your outside interests?
I've been a boater all my life and am a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed master. I also enjoy riding my Harley-Davidson motorcycle, woodworking and taking RV trips to see all the wonders of the U.S.A.


Lionel Pinn
Transportation Director, Centralia/Chehalis (Wash.) Pupil
Transportation Cooperative


Born: Fort Benning, Ga.
Home: Napavine, Wash.
Years in industry: 18
Notable previous jobs: I have held positions at First Student Inc., Reynolds School District 7 in Fairview, Ore., and the Educational Service District 112 in Vancouver, Wash.

How did you get your start in the industry? 
After a 20-year career with the U.S. Coast Guard, I wanted to do something less demanding. Driving a school bus seemed to be the perfect fit. However, driving a bus with 70 "tweenagers" introduced some new demands and challenges. Through a number of outstanding mentors, I found peace in the job and a true love for what I do.

Current job duties? 
I oversee all aspects of the transportation department for Centralia/Chehalis Pupil Transportation Cooperative. This one-of-a-kind outside work program has created jobs, assisted smaller school districts and municipalities with their mechanical needs and supplemented our state's funding shortfalls for student transportation. 

What do you consider your top achievements?  
My career with the U.S. Coast Guard is something I am really proud of. More recently, serving on the board of directors for the Washington Association for Pupil Transportation and being selected for this (Fascinating Personalities) rank right up there.

My personal achievements first include a loving family. Also, I sit on the board of directors for the nonprofit organization Wisdom of the Elders Inc., and I am a member of the Native American Music Awards Advisory Committee and co-founder of Earth Citizenship Network Inc., a nonprofit group. 

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?  
I am nearing completion on my second book, Zen Bus, which takes every aspect of the school bus industry and folds it into an easy-to-understand, Zen style to make transportation odysseys less stressful and more fun.  

What do you like most about being in the industry? 
The people. The fellow supervisors, drivers, driver trainers, dispatchers, secretaries, mechanics, teachers and principals who put the needs of children first, the employers who serve as role models, and the kids, who I am truly here for.



Bob Riley
Executive Director, NASDPTS


Born: Washington, D.C.
Home: Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Years in industry: 36

How did you get your start in the industry?
Upon college graduation, I became a high school driver education teacher, which led to my enrollment in the Traffic Safety Masters program at the University of Maryland. I completed that program while teaching and broadened my interest in all facets of traffic safety to include pupil transportation. Once I started working directly with pupil transportation as state director in Wyoming, I was hooked.

Current job duties?
As executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), I am responsible for the day-to-day activities of the association, including communication, representation and responses to federal and regulatory agencies, media relations, Website, liaison with related associations and any other association business as directed. An additional job opportunity that I have thoroughly enjoyed is representing NASDPTS on the American School Bus Council, which has given me a much better understanding of the overall pupil transportation community.

Top achievements?
Professionally, I have enjoyed a wide spectrum of opportunities in pupil transportation; however, serving as director of a large, progressive transportation system in Palm Beach, Fla., for more than 12 years would probably rank at the top.

Personally, I have been happily married to my wife, Jo, for 42 years, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my four children mature and go out on their own.

Outside interests?
I have had a lifelong interest in sports and fitness, participating in all sports in high school and playing college basketball. I have been a runner for 35-plus years, completing dozens of marathons, half marathons and shorter races. At the recommendation of my doctor and my knees, I recently switched from running to biking, and this summer I completed Ride the Rockies, a 380-mile, six-day ride through the mountains in Colorado.

If you could travel anywhere in the world ... 
We traveled to Italy last year and could not have enjoyed it more - food, wine, people and beautiful countryside (only saw one "scuola" bus in three weeks). Australia and New Zealand appeal to me for the next trip.


John Whelan
Heavy Duty Mechanic/Lead Hand, School District #73, Kamloops, British Columbia


Born: Kamloops, British Columbia
Home: Kamloops, British Columbia
Years in industry: 15
Notable previous jobs: I've worked in copper mines, truck shops, a GM dealership and, most notable, the Cache Creek Husky Truck Stop, which allowed me to work on an extremely wide range of equipment.

How did you get your start in the industry?
After high school, I started a six-month pre-apprenticeship course at Cariboo College (now Thompson Rivers University) and started working for Afton Mines as a second-year apprentice.

Current job duties?
We maintain a fleet of over 70 school buses and ground maintenance equipment. Other duties include inspections and repairs that are no longer covered by factory warranties. I also take the helm and help with managing daily shop duties when the opportunity presents itself.

Top achievements?
Sticking with the trade for this long and adapting to the changing trends in the industry. Having 32 years of experience under my belt feels great, and having the ability to pay it forward helping people in the industry and assisting others just getting started.

What do you like most about being in the industry?
I like working with professionals who care about safety and doing the job right. When there is a problem, using the synergy of all our experience gets the job done.

When did you start your school bus mechanic blog ( and how did you get the idea?
I started in 2005 with the Blogger platform because it was free and easy to work with. The main reason was to inform the Internet community about the industry and what a school bus mechanic does on a daily basis. Sharing some "aha!" moments is a great way to pass on information using my blog, which helps others save time and expenses.

I also belong to an amazing site called Mechanics Hub ( They offered me my very own page on their site called School Bus Mechanic. Mechanics Hub is an employment provider for mechanics looking for work all over the world on top of having a great social Website with a forum, videos and articles.


About the author
Staff Writer

Staff Writer


Our team of enterprising editors brings years of experience covering the fleet industry. We offer a deep understanding of trends and the ever-evolving landscapes we cover in fleet, trucking, and transportation.  

View Bio